The Parent-child Relationship Exception - California WIC section 366.26 (c)(1)(A)

In In re Brittany C. (1999) 76 Cal.App.4th 847, the appellate court affirmed the juvenile court's refusal to apply the Welfare and Institutions Code section 366.26, subdivision (c)(1)(A) exception. During the first 12 months of the dependency proceeding, the mother had failed to visit the child consistently and had failed to stop using drugs and alcohol. (Id. at p. 854.) The mother did attend regular monitored visits after reunification services had been terminated and a permanency hearing had been set, but the appellate court found this late attempt to reunify was not enough. (Ibid.) The court found the friendship between the mother and the child "did not resemble the daily nurturing that is characteristic of a parental relationship." (Ibid.) In In re Derek W. (1999) 73 Cal.App.4th 823, the appellate court held that in order to invoke the section 366.26, subdivision (c)(1)(A) exception, "the parent must do more than demonstrate 'frequent and loving contact,' an emotional bond with the child, or that parent and child find their visits pleasant. Instead, the parent must show that he or she occupies a 'parental role' in the child's life. " (Id. at p. 827.) Derek W. had lived with his foster parents since he was nine days old. (Ibid.) "The parties agree that David W. and Derek have an emotional bond and that Derek knows David W. is his father. They both find the visits enjoyable." (Id. at p. 826.) "While the relationship between David W. and Derek is pleasant and emotionally significant to Derek, it bears no resemblance to the sort of consistent, daily nurturing that marks a parental relationship. Under these circumstances, the trial court properly concluded that section 366.26, subdivision (c)(1)(A) was not an impediment to the termination of David's parental rights." (Id. at p. 827.) Finally, in In re Elizabeth M. (1997) 52 Cal.App.4th 318, a panel of this court affirmed the order terminating parental rights and refusing to apply the section 366.26, subdivision (c)(1)(A) exception. The mother's visits with the child had initially been consistent and appropriate, and the mother was completing her case plan. (Id. at p. 321.) The mother then stopped the counseling sessions, cancelled half of her visits with the child, and ultimately resumed her drug use. (Id. at pp. 321-322.) "The type of parent-child relationship sufficient to derail the statutory preference for adoption is one in which 'regular visits and contact have continued or developed a significant, positive, emotional attachment from child to parent.' Such a relationship 'arises from day-to-day interaction, companionship and shared experiences.' While the mother's visitation with Elizabeth had been consistent and positive during a previous period of time, during the six months preceding the selection and implementation hearing it had been sporadic. Even when the visits were consistent and frequent, the mother did not occupy a parental role. At best, she occupied a pleasant place in Elizabeth's life. This is insufficient to deny a child who cannot be returned to her parents the secure and permanent home decreed by the Legislature to be in her best interests. " (Id. at p. 324) In In re Brandon C. (1999) 71 Cal.App.4th 1530, the children's mother had consistently attended weekly visits to the full extent permitted by the court's visitation order. The children, twin boys who were four months old at the time of detention and four years old at the time of the permanency hearing, had been placed in the home of their paternal grandmother. (Id. at p. 1532.) The paternal grandmother monitored the mother's visits with the children (id. at p. 1534) and was willing to adopt the children (id. at p. 1537). The paternal grandmother told the social worker, "'the parents usually talk to and play with the children during the visitations. They also help in feeding them and caring for them, by changing diapers, picking up toys, and keeping them safe.' Rangey, the better developed of the twins, 'seems to understand the concept of "momma" and "daddy" and likes to be with them.' The child tended to cry for long periods and would resist going to bed after visitations with mother." (Id. at p. 1535.) Both the mother and the paternal grandmother testified there was a close bond between the mother and the children and that a continuation of contact would be beneficial to the children. (Id. at pp. 1536-1537.) The appellate court in In re Brandon C., supra, 71 Cal.App.4th 1530 concluded it was irrelevant that the mother had not presented evidence she had provided the children with nourishment, comfort or physical care during her weekly visits because of the limited nature of the visitation. "In this case, mother was not the boys' primary caretaker, and a quantitative measurement of the specific amount of 'comfort, nourishment or physical care' she provided during her weekly visits is not necessary. Moreover, it is the local social services agency which failed to provide information to the court about the quality of the visits during the years preceding the section 366.26 hearing. Its reports consistently described the regularity of the visits, with no evaluation of their success. Under the circumstances of this case, we find the evidence of benefit sufficient to support the court's decision to order guardianship." (In re Brandon C., supra, 71 Cal.App.4th at p. 1538.)